Verses and Vices: The Hidden Connection Between Poetry and Gambling

To put it more directly, pure mathematics is the poetry of logical ideas. This deep association exists in the literature as well, especially evident in Dostoyevsky’s prose, which is perhaps one of the most frequently linked to gambling pieces, titled “The Gambler”. Despite a new trend of online gambling prevailing over the physical local gambling casinos, poets are not tired of seeking inspiration at the tables of casinos. This is because the passions that are tied to gambling are aligned with the theme of poetry and thus, they complement each other. It compels people to celebrate World Poetry Day on March 21 to promote multilingualism and offer the endangered languages a chance to live through the verses. It could be said that poetry creates relationships, opens people to other cultures, and helps to speak about their feelings. Let me present to you six poets who discovered inspiration in the sphere of gambling!


You may thus be surprised that gambling is not a modern-day innovation. To go by what has been said earlier as having been drawn from the ancient scripts, Greeks never stopped finding toys like dice and other items of chance fascinating. These games were referred to in compositions by Homer, a prominent poet of ancient Greece best known for writing of Iliad and Odyssey. Although this is still not fully proven, Homer is reported to have had what could be described as a Diehard gambler as was most of the Gods of Olympus. The said individual liked “Alea”, which was considered as the forerunner of a dice game. This, of course, should not come as a surprise seeing as how there are so many slot games that include parts from the mythological world of Ancient Greece. However, the historical background of fighting with spirits is quite tempting to narrate as an origin for them.

George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)

Also recognized as simply Lord Byron, he is one of the most famous English Romantic poets of all time. His long narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which was published in 1812 and is associated with his young European tours, is considered one of his early achievements. Notably, Byron, who inherited the peerage at the tender age of 10, was one of the first major stars to get swamped with fan mail which was known as “Byromania” by his wife Annabella. At Trinity College, Byron also engaged in such vices as boxing, horse riding, and gambling among others, which also depicted the versatile and adventurous person he was.

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Considered the pioneer of modernity, Charles Baudelaire is a famous French poet, essayist, art critic, and translator. His book of lyric poetry, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), is one of the most famous works containing visions of the changing object of art in the process of industrialization of mid-century Paris. The poem Le Jeu, also translated as Gambling, is probably one of the most conventional poetic reflections of the thematic complex named by critics as the ‘decadent’ by Baudelaire who spoke of aging and death through representation of female card-sharks wasting their finances. Despite describing gambling as a never-ending vicious cycle, Baudelaire reveals a moment of admiration in one verse, noting how he envies “the stubborn passion of those people.”

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

The author of novels, short stories and poems, Rudyard Kipling who received the Nobel prize once in a while depicted gambling. This characteristic is as fundamental to gambling as is taking risks, which was captured by Kipling in his most famous poem which is “If” written sometime in the late 1890s. Thus, in this miniature masterpiece, Kipling provokes the reader with lines that are the essence of the gambler –

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss.”

These verses present itself not only as the fortitude that is needed in gambling but in every journey that a man will undertake in life.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Born to German immigrants in Andernach, Germany, Charles Bukowski, an American poet, novelist, and short story writer was dubbed by Time magazine in 1986 as the “laureate of American lowlife”. The cynicism in Bukowski’s writing personally has been narrated straightforwardly and unambiguously. He was a keen gambler and hence often used gambling in his writings. This theme is also seen in such quotes as –

“and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.”

(from Roll the Dice)


“It’s been a tough fight worth fighting
as we all drive along
betting on another day.”

(from Gamblers All)

In these lines, Bukowski succeeds in describing the life of a gambler, the spirit of which is the spirit of impermeability, taking risks and hoping against all odds.

David Lehman (1948)

David Lehman is a widely recognized American poet, non-fiction writer, and critic. He is also the founder and series editor of The Best American Poetry, four volumes of the best 75 poems of the year. Lehman uses gambling to argue that it is an inherent part of human experience in which the whole life is just a gamble. Looking at his decision-making in the course of his life, Lehman once said that it was a sort of gambling that he chose to become a full-time freelance writer; therefore, he does not gamble, not even in a casino. This interpretation highlights the adventurous nature of the adapter’s decision and the possible gains or losses vested in the chosen occupation.

Poetry and Gambling: An Ideal Pair

Uncomfortable as this is, we have to admit that life is a gamble, as we have seen in the chapter. It is almost impossible to walk through life and avoid it since it is embedded in music, movies, fashion, business, mathematics, art, advertisements, popular culture, proverbs, and even more. On this list, we have met six figures; however, many more writers practiced gambling by addressing it in works or by staking money themselves. If we are to look at famous writers and authors, some of the prominent figures that are associated with gambling include James Joyce, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, Ian Fleming, and Mario Puzo. Since such a vast number of feelings are linked with both writing and betting, it is apparent that this association is only going to develop even more so, guaranteeing countless engrossing literary masterpieces.